Free agency officially began today and the Arizona Coyotes are potential buyers. GM Don Maloney remains steadfast in his approach of waiting and seeing what shakes out, but with roughly $3-$5 million left in spending room, options could run out quickly. Of his approach to what he hopes to get out of free agency, Don Maloney told reporters that they are looking to get better defensively, add a scoring winger or two, and to get better team speed. Surveying the list of free agents, there were a few familiar faces surfacing that could cover some – if not all – of Don Maloney’s team needs. From the most likely to least likely, here is the list of ex-Coyotes that could potentially return to the team through free agency.
Price Tag- $1.800 Million
Vernon Fiddler would be a player Arizona would love to have back in a Coyotes uniform. He is a quick, tough and gritty “Tippett style” of a player that is terrific on the penalty kill and in the faceoff circle. His 46 percent defensive zone starts in comparison to his 23 percent offensive zone starts exemplifies the defensive approach he excels at. The $1.800 million is a little steep given the Coyotes situation, but if Maloney were able to find a way to make it happen, Fiddler could bring a strong presence and veteran leadership to the second or third lines as a winger or center. His 52.2 faceoff win percentage on the season ranks third on the Coyotes behind Vermette and Hanzal, but he would be an ideal second-line PK center and could have an immediate impact on the team.
Price Tag: $2.500 Million
Since totaling 52 points in his rookie season with the St. Louis Blues, Stempniak has never been able to match that high and has averaged a decent 37 points per season since. Stempniak played for the Coyotes from 2009-2011, in which he was able to nab 56 points in 100 games played. He has the speed and experience the Coyotes are looking for in a forward and certainly knows how to play in this system. Although he lacks size, he can still play in most situations. However, the price tag set at $2.500 million is too steep and if he and his agent could step down from that asking price, Arizona could swing an offer his way; but do not expect to happen early in free agency.
Price Tag: $1.800 Million
Winnick is coming off the best year of his career after racking up 30 total points with a career high 24 assists playing for the Anaheim Ducks this past season. He is a solid defensive forward and penalty killer and also has the size and skill to contribute on anyone’s third or fourth lines. It will be interesting to see if he attempts to get a higher paying contract after the year he had, but if he does try and comes up empty handed, like Stempniak, it could be Maloney and the Coyotes in the end that extend a helping hand.
Price Tag: $1.550 Million
If getting a player for cheap is what Arizona is looking for, than look no further. Pyatt would appear to be in no position to be negotiating for a higher salary, especially after the showing he gave with the Penguins at the end of last season. In 34 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Pyatt could only muster up four total points, all goals. So picking him up for cheap could be a viable option, but if Maloney is attempting to boost his speed, this would not be the place to look.
Given the amount of patience Don Maloney is willing to exude, it is not expected that anything new will happen soon. In lieu of that news, players like Vernon Fiddler and Lee Stempniak may not even be available when it all is said and done. However, if the Coyotes cannot get anything done through free agency, Maloney has already shown early in this offseason that he does not plan on missing out on the playoffs for a third straight season.
Commentary by Ryne Vyles